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Turkey: High court blocks pro-Kurdish HDP opposition party bank accounts

Party spokesperson says the decision, which comes months before elections, was made under political pressure
Members and supporters of the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) take part in a rally on the occasion of May Day in Istanbul, Turkey, on 1 May 2022 (Reuters)
Members and supporters of the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) take part in a rally on the occasion of May Day in Istanbul, Turkey, on 1 May 2022 (Reuters)
By Ragip Soylu in Istanbul, Turkey

Turkey’s constitutional court ruled to temporarily freeze the bank accounts of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP) on Thursday over charges that the party has been misusing treasury grants to fund terrorist activities, the semi-official Anadolu Agency reported.

The decision against the HDP, which has 56 seats in Turkey's 600-member parliament, and is the third-largest party in the country, was taken with a majority of eight votes to seven.

It comes months before general parliamentary and presidential elections are set to be held in Turkey. 

HDP spokesperson Ebru Gunay condemned the decision and said the high court has become an election tool for the government.

“This ruling doesn’t have any legitimacy in the eyes of the people,” she said. “The court took a decision under political pressure despite rejecting the same request two times in the past.” 

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The chief public prosecutor of the cassation court had filed a lawsuit in 2021 seeking the closure of the HDP over alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Turkey's high court puts HDP on trial for alleged links with PKK
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The HDP has repeatedly denied any formal links to the PKK. 

Since 2015, the Turkish government has launched a crackdown on the HDP, dismissing 50 mayors from office, detaining several party MPs and more than 7,000 party members on terrorism charges.

Last month, the prosecutor requested HDP accounts be blocked as the hearing in the party closure case continues.

The high court will hear the HDP’s defence against the chief prosecutor’s reasoning on the account suspensions.

The decision will then be reviewed by the General Assembly of the Constitutional Court, which can decide to revoke the decision or continue the injunction.

Treasury grants are a key source of income for political parties.

According to the relevant legislation, treasury aids are deposited in the accounts of political parties within the first 10 days of the year. The HDP this year was set to receive 539.5 million Turkish lira (nearly $29m) to pay for and organise its political activities and campaigns.

Gunay said the verdict came just days before the money was going to be wired to HDP accounts, which suggested other motives. She added that HDP will continue its campaigns without the grant.

The HDP has already presented its defence against the party closure indictment. The chief prosecutor will make his oral arguments on 10 January. 

The Constitutional Court rapporteur, who will collect information and documents regarding the case, will then prepare his report on the merits and the court will set a date for the final judgment.

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